Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Artist Interview: Lindsay Nohl

Lindsay Nohl's Interview Photos
Artist Interview with Lindsay Nohl
By Jenny Bookler

One of my favorite things in the world is getting to know new people. I love to sit down, grab a coffee, and talk about all of their thoughts and ideas. I have had the honor of getting to know several of you through artist interviews, online conversations, and in person, and I am always blown away by the breath of artwork, enthusiasm, and interesting personalities- you all are great!

So many of you ask, who runs Light Grey Art Lab? how many of you are there? what do you do? where do your inspirations come from? Well, to answer all of those questions and to return the openness you have shared with all of us, we will be conducting artist interviews within the Light Grey team!

To start this series of interviews, I want to introduce Lindsay Nohl, founder and owner of Light Grey Art Lab and Paper Bicycle LLC and Illustration Teacher at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.  Lindsay is one of the most talented, kind, and hard working people I know, with unlimited enthusiasm and big ideas. I sat down with Lindsay this week to ask about her thoughts, motivations, collections, and upcoming projects:

Lindsay Nohl's Interview Photos
You are the founder of Light Grey Art Lab, but how would you describe all of the things and parts you manage everyday?

Whoa. I don’t even know where to start. Well -- I come up with a ton of the exhibition and project ideas for Light Grey. (But I definitely couldn’t keep them going without everyone else, that’s for sure.) I usually write most of what people see on the internet. I’m in charge of the Twitter, Facebook and the calls-for-art on the blog.  I suppose I’m the marketing person (Is that even a thing we do?) and I’m the all-around ‘starter’ of things. I usually plan our trips to different places, and often bug the crap out of everyone else here with my “what about this!” ideas, and “let’s put this on the pile!” attitude. I’m really lucky everyone’s always so nice about it. I am totally a brain-stormer. I love brainstorming.

You are often coming up with new ideas and projects to start. What is your primary motivator? or inspiration for new projects?
I have an extremely short attention span, but a really wide array of interests. Plus, I get obsessed with things easily and tend to devour topics like I used to devour bubble tea. For some reason, when I’m hot on something, I’m super hot on it and my obsessions tend to be top-of-mind for me until I’ve somehow satiated my hunger for them. Sometimes I’m motivated to do a project because it’s challenging, other times it’s because I’ve convinced myself that I couldn’t live without seeing an idea come to fruition. Most times I’m inspired by totally serendipitous things like, for example, stumbling upon all of these amazing Sci-fi paperbacks in a local comic shop. I bought 13, then 20 more... and that’s when I was hooked. And Station Zero was born.

Oliver is collecting vintage sci-fi books. Oh, the hobbies #cats have... #books
Oliver, one of Lindsay's cats, guards these precious Sci-Fi books

Where is your favorite place/atmosphere to make artwork?
I’m all about coffee houses. In fact, I’m also all about different places. I like to be where people are when I’m working. I’m not sure what it is about it, but I just feel energized. I had a corporate design job for a couple years right after school and when I decided to go off on my own I spent the next couple years loitering at coffeehouses all day / night. It was seriously the best. I’m sure I looked like a pack-mule with all of the stuff I hauled around with me, but I LOVED it. And when I’m not working there, I just really like being upstairs in my home studio. It’s super chill. I put the jams on and sing while I’m working. You can’t do that at a coffee house.

Lindsay Nohl's Interview Photos
It's common for Lindsay's work-space to have everything and anything on it at all times. Here, you can see her prized possession, a white tiger lamp from Francesca. A gift to remember.

What are some common themes and subjects you like to draw?
I’m also an impatient creator, so if I’m trying to do something quick, I usually do one of two things. For the last couple years I’ve been drawing portraits of people - face only. (Or even more specifically just noses and mouths.) or patterns. Most of the things that I’ve shared in my personal portfolio / online are my patterns. I make them at work all the time, but I also make them for fun. I had a project a couple years ago called Daily Pattern for our - where each of us in the studio did a pattern a day for 8 months. That’s a ton of patterns. And recently I’ve been creating patterns once a week (give or take!) for a similar project called 101florals. It just ended a bit ago, so I'm eager to start on a new project where I draw things. I have been tossing around a couple new ideas. If there's anyone out there that wants to collaborate on a sketch project, hit me up.

#Sketch of a Venus flytrap! #art #illustration
A sketch from one of Lindsay's sketchbooks. Venus Fly-trap!

Tell me about your favorite thing you have ever made. 
Well, I’m one of those artists that hates everything they make a day after they finish it. I revel in my projects for as long as I can, then I get all weird and self-conscious and move on. I’m sure that’s normal, right? So, to answer your question. I’m not su--- WAIT. THAT IS NOT TRUE. My favorite thing that I’ve made so far is Light Grey. (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?)
Besides Light Grey, I think it might be the projects I do for other people. If I'm making something for someone else, I find it so much more exciting. I adore giving gifts and I love the creating something for someone else.

What is the weirdest thing you have ever made (either by assignment or personal)?
Oh man. I have made a few that are mention-worthy. One time I made an illustration of Corey Feldman picking up dog poop. Another time I made 60 gouache paintings of  ‘bad things that people do’ , including pushing people’s faces into water fountains, spitting in people’s food.... but that was in school. I also made a wire sculpture of an opossum for some reason. We all do weird things in college, right? Just recently I did a project where I had to make a pattern out of meat. That was for a very reputable client. (and it was not my idea.)

Today is a glasses day!

If you could learn any new skill, what would it be?
Speed reading AND retaining the information. I can read pretty fast but I have a memory like a sieve. I adore books but I have the problem of digesting them and then confusing them with others.

What are your vices and things you cannot live without?
Currently? Eating bell peppers like apples. I’m all about cats. Actually, I’m all about all of the animals. I’m totally a tea person. Lately I’ve been adding lattes to my daily ritual because I drag in the morning. I am a night person, so that also means that I wake up horribly late. Collecting things. I am a hoarder of things. Specifically old paper things like vintage greeting cards, old books, and old wrapping paper.

What do you like to do in your free time?
…. free time. That’s a concept. I teach in my free time? I talk about projects and then do projects? I talk to my parents? I don’t even know anymore. I often have everything so packed in there that I’m not sure I actually have free time. I have a sliver of time when I’m eating at night after I come home from teaching and that’s usually when I put on an episode of something and pig out with Chris. Besides that I like to throw a much needed vacation in the mix and go on adventures to places there are no lines -- where you can crawl on everything, and be the only person for miles around. I also like the days when I sit down in a small space with someone and have heart-to-hearts. I love one on one conversations like nothing else. I'd always make time for those.

Lindsay teaching about succulents

What is your dream place/landscape?
I think everyone in the universe has heard that I want to retire when I’m 40 and move to Iceland and wear the same wool sweater all day, paint and read books in my 2 story library. Maybe I’d have a duck as a pet. All while with my back to a glacier and my face toward the sea. I’m sure it’d weather me as quickly as the first season of Man vs. Wild grizzled up Bear Grylls, but I’d be willing to take that chance.

In an alternate reality (which I only talk about when I am feeling frumpy) I'd live in an a creaky, four-story, turn of the century tudor-style house on a wooded corner of town. I would grow my huge hair out until it was long, grey and gnarly. The children would ride their bikes past my overgrown iron gates and they'd shriek when they saw my silhouette in one of the ivy-framed windowpanes. I would have taken up wood carving and topiary making, and my yard would be strewn with my endless 'projects'. Inside, you'd find me slowly shuffling through secret passages, or pondering my cabinets of curiosities. Stacks of my 'collections' would litter the hallways. Not as much a hoarders-situation as an ill-kept museum. At the back of the house I'd have a huge leaded greenhouse where finches and other songbirds kept my plants company. I'd have a crow for a famili-- I mean, a crow for a pet. My house would be drafty but my 6 cats would keep me warm at night.

What is the best advice you ever received?

My dad has the best sayings. One of them, (which I quoted in the Happiness & Success lecture) was in relation to allowing one’s self to pursue goals that are ambitious or far-fetched. He says “If it doesn’t work out, no one is going to take you out back and shoot you.” to which I say “Good point!” So we might as well just do the things we’re excited about without the fear of failing. I’m not even sure that failing exists. I’m not sure why people stop themselves from doing what they love, or going for something they want. I totally live by that idea and that particular shred of wisdom has given me all sorts of guts to try things I never thought I’d be able to do. It’s also given me more hope that I can do all sorts of other things if I keep trying.

People + Patterns: Grand Opening
Lindsay and her Dad, Victor.

If you could teach a class on any topic in the world what would it be?

I’d love to teach a class on collaboration, specifically. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure why I’ve never done that before. Think of the possibilities!

What is one of your life aspirations?
I’d really like to visit Europe one day and meet some of the amazing people I’ve met through all of our projects in person. Maybe couch surf my way around, eat all of the delicious food and enjoy myself for a couple weeks. I’m thinking that this might be a possibility some time soon. Might as well try, right?

I’d also like to learn how to meditate. Like, for real. I’d like to remember my dreams. I’d like to author a book about patterns. I guess you only asked for one aspiration. Whoops.

Do you have any guilty pleasures? Things you know you should not do, but do anyway?
I have many pleasures, but I do not feel guilty about any of them. :)

Thanks, Lindsay!

You can see more of Lindsay's artwork here and follow her blog here


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